Director: Maren Ade
The Forest For The Trees, Maren Ade’s graduation film from Munich’s University for Television and Film has become such a smash since its creation that it’s been featured at more than thirty international film festivals and received a Special Jury Prize at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival. This feat seems even more amazing when one realizes that the work was completed in just twenty-six days. Shot on video by a cinematographer with a background in documentary filmmaking, this excruciatingly real portrait of loneliness tells the story of Melanie, a bright-eyed teacher from a small country school who moves to a better position in the city only to find that not only is it hard to be the new girl (at any age) but even harder to be the new teacher. While one quickly becomes aware that Melanie has an obsessive personality and a few mental health issues as her actions in trying to reach out to a neighbor become more and more extreme, one is also acutely aware and finds truth in the film’s depiction of trying to become the member of a new community, of the uphill struggle of trying to find friends post-college in our current world, and the pressures placed on teachers competing with students who challenge them both vocally and by throwing things. It’s definitely not a film to show an aspiring teacher in their first year on the job but I’m sure it will ring true with veterans in the educational field. By the end of the film, we realize that although Ade’s thoughtfully challenging piece has engrossed us, we also find ourselves wanting to know more about Melanie and the ending itself is vague, terrifying and will unsettle those seeking total closure. Perhaps the film would’ve benefited by showing Melanie in her original surroundings for a better contrast. As it is, we’re not quite sure what Melanie was like as a country schoolteacher and are left with more questions than answers. However, Trees is still an amazing triumph from a new writer and director now made available to American audiences through filmmovement.com.